by Janet Alexander
The Cedar Waxwing is a striking and easily distinguished bird. It is fawn-colored with a prominent crest, black mask, and characteristic red scales on its secondary flight feathers. There is a band of yellow on the tip of the tail. It’s called waxwing because the scales look like sealing wax.
Waxwings eat insects, fruits, and berries and can often be seen passing berries or insects back and forth to each other while they sit eating side by side. A very social bird, the Cedar Waxwing spends most of the year in flocks and its movements can be erratic. Hundreds will suddenly appear in an area to devour a crop of berries, and then vanish when the crop is exhausted.
Waxwings are well known for their gluttonous appetites, and often become patients at the Wildlife Center when they have gorged on berries that have fermented. They then become exceedingly drunk, and fly into buildings or other objects, becoming stunned.
Cedar Waxwings nest further north into Canada and only migrate through California in the late fall, winter and the early part of spring. We always have a healthy supply of berries on hand to feed them when they arrive as patients since they usually don’t stop eating from dawn to dusk. Once they recover from their inebriated state and their injuries are well-healed, they are reunited with their flock. We certainly hope they don’t repeat the same behavior!